In July

oh, for goodness sake. What do you expect when parents decide they can ‘trust’ their 14 and 16 year old kids to keep the house shipshape and Bristol fashion for 21 days in July while they jot off to Jamaica. We stood in the driveway next to my mother’s Thunderbird. She was sitting in the passenger’s seat for the trip to the airport. Dad always drove. Right now he was leaning on the open driver’s door and going over his list of rules again, wanting to make sure that we understood all twenty five of them. He covered Locking the doors, collecting the mail, bed times, no parties, assignment of chores and the other very specific enumerations of how it was going to be. My sister stood there doe eyes and nodding, wishing he’d stop talking and get it the car and go. He got into the car and shut the door. Yes!  Then he powered the window down and said maybe he should go through it one more time. My mother spoke up suggesting that  they needed to catch their flight and no telling how the traffic would be. My dad nodded and then pointed first at my sister and then at me. “Don’t let me down.” he said. With that, the window slid up and away my parents went, echoes of calypso music in their heads. The car disappeared around the corner and my sister said “dibs on the phone!” I nodded in agreement. “Dibs on the sea skiff!” I replied.  My sister nodded in agreement. She needed the phone to call her friends to arrange a party and I wanted to take the Duet, a 30 foot Henry Lures Sea Skiff, out for a party with my friends. I walked over to my friend Toby’s house and used their phone to call together out little six man crew for some fishing, junk food, and sleeping in the comfy bunks. One unlucky participant would have to sleep in the bows, a triangular sort of bunk thing that was usually a pile of life jackets, water skis, tow ropes and water toys. The parents readily agreed;  if my mom and dad had confidence in me to do an overnight fishing trip then they saw no reason to be a wet blanket. Plus they knew I was all over the sound with my Boston Whaler, going so far as taking it into the Atlantic to go up to Nantucket. When asked where we were heading to fish I replied we’d be going up sound, which meant ‘east.’  Fact were, we had no idea where we were going. We’d just set a few trolls and and run before a following sea. Gentle and smooth. We cruised more or less randomly, the throttle in ‘troll’ position. It gave us about 8 knots of forward speed. The wheel could pretty much be ignored, it didn’t matter if our course wandered a little. It might deviate one way for a bit and then the other. Our trolls garnered a few good hits on bass, perch and a dogfish. The dogfish looks like a little shark and they aren’t very good eating. With only two fish in the cooler, we cut the engine, a 200 hp Mercury Marine inboard, and tried for some bottom fishing. We had better luck, managing to come up with a few flounders and a couple of cod. We pulled up the wax table, a piece of plywood with a roll of waxed paper stuck to the end, and went to work cleaning the fish.  We got  about 14 decent fillets that looked so good that we just had to set up the barbecue. We had regular and BBQ flavored chips and with a choice of orange and grape crush, coke and seven up, we were ready for some serious eating. It’s surprising how much of an appetite you can get fishing the ocean, and just how tired you can get. We’d managed to troll and drift our way almost to the Connecticut River, just about where the crush began. The crush was where Long Island bent itself toward Connecticut and ended the sound in favor of the Atlantic herself. I took us withing a mile of the coast and dropped a pair of anchors, letting one go and then giving line and drifting back about 50 yards and then going forward and off to the right even with the first anchor. This created a V of anchor lines and guaranteed we’d be right where we left us in the morning. A couple of us had a cigarette, demonstrating our clear alpha status as adults. I made sure to have two. My boat, after all. We all found our bunk space except Donny. He’d drawn the forward mat and there was too much crap there. Dog took pity on him and said if they could have the master bed, which was the biggest, they could share. Done deal. We talked between ourselves for about another hour and finally we all winked out.  It seemed like just a moment later that we were all awakened by loud noise. Clumping motor, groaning and creaking pulleys and cables, and maybe a radio too. Suddenly the boat was yanked 180 degrees, throwing us all to the floor. Awake and frightened, we scrambled up to the deck. There was a mussel dredge about 60 feet in front of us and one of my anchor lines pointed straight at it. “Jeremy, Toby, go pull the second anchor before this jerk rips us up.” They hopped to it, winding the anchor line onto  winch and hauling it in. Luckily, it didn’t bind up on any rock and they soon had it on the foredeck.  Meanwhile I was yelling at the dredger that he snagged my anchor and he needed to stop and cast it loose. His reply was to shoot me the finger and yell back he wasn’t going to break his dredge line for some punk kid.  Donny, Doug, Toby, Jeremy and I stood in a huddle and Jeremy made a suggestion about a trick he saw in a movie about Greek fishermen. Toby fetched a fender and fifty feet of hemp rope to tie to one end of it. The idea was to speed up and pass the dredger a little and then throw the fender across in front of his bow. If we timed it right, he wouldn’t be able to stop in time to keep the prop from getting fouled by the rope. I took the wheel, cranked up the motor and steered us up even with the dredge. He looked over at us and gave us the finger again. I waited for him to turn away to tend a line or something, and when he did, I stabbed the throttle forward and Jeremy, whose idea this was, tossed the fender. It was a perfect shot. Toby was holding the fee end of the rope and immediately started taking up slack and we all watched the rope as it slid toward the stern of the dredger. The old fisherman must have seen the same movie because he figured out what we were doing right away. He jump to slam his transmission into neutral, but it was too late. Toby let the line go as it wrapped up on the dredger’s prop shaft. There was a lot of threats and a lot of curse words, but with five of us and one of him, we could cut loose our anchor and move on. The dredger didn’t know about how dim a view my dad would take of a lost $200 Danforth anchor. We told him to raise his dredge and cast loose our anchor without cutting the line and in return, we’d dive under his boat and cut the rope off his prop. He grudgingly accepted the deal. We could have taken our anchor and left him, but a deal is a deal and in spite of my friends calling me a wimp, Toby and I dove in, each of us with a filleting knife. It wasn’t too bad a knot. We had it cut loose on a single breath and swam back to our boat and climbed up the skier’s ladder. “You’d have better cut me loose!” yelled the dredger. His response was five boys shooting him the finger as we cruised westward back to Rowayton. Comparing note with my sister that night it appeared that we both had a good time. She and her friends had gotten a little tipsy on beer and danced in the living room, playing demon rock and roll on my dad’s precious Fisher hifi. The boys were gentlemen and left at the appropriate time and the girls stayed over and helped clean up in the morning. My friends were equally helpful cleaning up and Duet. We still had 19 days to go.